It’s no secret that university costs have skyrocketed over the past 30-40 years! Student loan horror stories abound. People being forced to drop-out in the middle of their studies due to financial hardships have increased as well. For the past several years, college enrollment has declined. All of this is related to the cost of college attendance.

What are ways to reduce the cost of your college studies? Keep reading to find some helpful tips for saving money.

Community College for Associate Degrees

Plenty of universities and colleges offer associate degrees. Especially for-profit colleges. But, very few academic institutions offer associate degrees lower than the cost of community colleges. Average in-state, in-district tuition is $3,400 per year; private institutions charge at least $7,500 per year. Community colleges reduce the cost of two-year degrees by 50% in most cases, but depending on the state the savings can be more.

Transfer from Community College

This differs per state, but it’s possible to transfer credits earned from community college classes to pre-requisite requirements for university degree programs. 31 states have statewide agreements that allow credits earned in an associate degree program to transfer to universities with four-year undergraduate programs. Research if you state allows transfer of community college credits, and then decide if this tactic works for you.

Rent Your Textbooks

Want to save 70-90% on textbook costs? Consider renting them. First, find out which textbook will be used in class (email your professor prior to the start of class)—get the title, authors, ISBN, and edition number. Then, turn to any number of textbook rental sites. Amazon and Chegg are usually the most popular options. But, you can leverage sites such as Campus Books, Textbook Rentals, and similar textbook aggregator sites. There are even websites and pages that have created listicles about the best textbook rental sites:

Buy Used Textbooks When Possible

This is an old-fashioned tactic, but it’s becoming outdated. Publishers have been racing to transform physical textbooks into digital ones and pushing this effort upon colleges. The goal is elimination of the used textbook market (which is currently facing legal challenges). For printed textbooks, publishers update them on average every 3-5 years. It’s unknown how often they do this for eBooks, but it’s probably more frequent since digital changes are easier update online. Because of this high frequency of updates, used textbooks might be on the decline. Nonetheless, if you’re on the hunt for used textbooks, here are some websites to explore:

Work for the College Bookstore

Want discounts? Flexible work hours? Social opportunities? The college bookstore might be your answer. Most colleges offer significant discounts (10-20%) for bookstore employees. In most cases, this applies to textbooks. If you don’t mind dealing with the public, consider applying at your college bookstore. To read more student experiences working at a college bookstore, read this page on Indeed.

Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants are self-explanatory—free money for your studies based on qualifying characteristics. I won’t waste too much reading time explaining them, but I will provide resources to help you find and qualify for free college funding.

Finding Scholarships

Let’s get the most well-known scholarship and grant sources out of the way. Government funding should be the first option and that’s where the Pell Grant comes in, which is free money for those in dire financial need and requires completion of the FAFSA form. Other well-known websites (and among the oldest) for scholarship research are and Fastweb. Older scholarship sites usually collect your personal information and reserves the right to sell your data for marketing purposes; check their terms of use policies to understand what happens with the data they collect about you.

Now let’s turn to some modern and unorthodox sources for finding scholarships. I did turn to some Reddit forums for help with writing this section, so my first suggestion is to find sub-reddits about scholarships; ask your questions there or research prior scholarship questions. The second source I’d list here is local community foundations. Go to a search engine and type “(your city/region) community foundation,” and then read their websites to find any scholarship and grant opportunities. You can use the same method for researching other local organization: rotary clubs, women’s clubs, lion clubs, law firms, fraternity and sorority scholarships. The third source of scholarships is professional organizations that are related to the areas of studies you have interest in pursuing. The fourth source is this book that’s updated annually: The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2022: Billions of Dollars in Scholarships, Grants and Prizes. The fifth source for finding scholarships is scholarships websites, saved for last because many of them are primarily marketing portals. Here are the most popular ones that many searchers have found to be legitimate:

Applying to Scholarships

There’s a lot of generic advice on the internet about applying to scholarships. I’ve curated the best few articles which give thorough tips about scholarship applications. You can find more, but make sure that the content you read has specific, actionable advice which you can follow.

Scholarship Essays

Most scholarships require an essay from applicants. This is probably the most important process in the scholarship application. To quote a famous celebrity: “Don’t f*ck it up!” That’s why I’ve linked to the best articles which have specific tips for crafting superb scholarship essays.

Live Close to Campus

You can still enjoy the perks of college life by choosing to live close to campus. Like, across the street or a few blocks away. Most universities allow students to access the cafeteria and other amenities without having to live on-campus or in provided student housing. This reduces your commute time to class and you save money by not having to purchase so much food. If you’re lucky, your landlord or roommate isn’t charging rent that breaks your financial ceiling.

Don’t Attend College

Avoid universities! Depending on the career field, you might be able to skip university attendance altogether. You can replace college courses with online courses hosted on platforms (Udacity, Udemy, Coursera, Noodle, edX, etc.), or courses that lead to specific industry certifications.

Want to research degree outcomes? Visit and explore the average salaries, average job growth, and average education costs for over 1,700 degrees.